The Sikhs Built New Delhi, Literally

The Sikhs Who Built New Delhi, Modern India’s Capital

It would not be an exaggeration to say that most of New Delhi, the Capital of India, was built by a coterie of Sardar contractors of whom five did the lion’s share of building. In Sikh circles, they were known as ‘punj pyarey’ – the ‘five beloved’, borrowing the term from the first five Khalsa of the Tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh.

The top five builders were Sobha Singh, Basakha Singh, Ranjit Singh, Mohan Singh and Dharam Singh Sethi.

The British gave them due credit by inscribing their names on stone slabs. You can see them in the alcoves of South and North Blocks. The South Block has five names starting with my father, Sobha Singh, the North Block has a list of architects and engineers including my father-in-law, Teja Singh Malik, who was the first Indian head of the Central Public Works Department.

The British did more.


Before quitting India, they conferred knighthoods on Teja Singh Malik and Sobha Singh. You can’t be blamed for not being aware of this because free India’s rulers did nothing to perpetuate their memory. Not a single road, bylane or round-about was named after any of them. Whether the new rulers were from the Congress party or the BJP, they were more concerned with giving credit to their party members than recording the truth. At times it appeared like anti-Sikh communal prejudice. Perish the thought.

Mani Shankar Aiyar had the Parliament sanction to change Connaught Circus into Indira and Rajiv Gandhi names. The metro stations are named according to his wishes, but the average Dilliwala prefers calling Connaught Circus as Connaught Circus. He also named a prominent road after the eminent Tamilian poet Subramaniam Bharati Marg. Why not? We have Amrita Shergill Marg.

Neither had anything to do with New Delhi.

Why no road after Amrita Pritam who lived and died here?


[Courtesy: Hindustan Times.]

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